Fearing for the safety of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) on Wednesday announced the suspension of all tournaments in China. Unconvinced by Peng’s public appearances, WTA was forced to bring the sledgehammer. WTAs decision is laudable and it should rightly prompt India to do the same with Indian Olympic Association banning China from participating in any future sporting event held in India.
Moreover, with China suspended from hosting any WTA event, India could raise its hands and ask the Tennis body to shift the tournaments here in the country. Tennis in India, for long, has been devoid of big tournaments. The lone Davis Cup games, once every few years, do little to promote the game.
Among women, Ankita Raina has done well to enter the doubles top-100, win a WTA Tour-level trophy and feature in multiple Grand Slam main draws. But to this day, Sania Mirza’s No.27 remains the best singles ranking achieved by someone representing India and that came more than 14 years ago. No one else has even cracked the top-100. However, this is the opportunity to make India the focus of future WTA events.
What did WTA say?
WTA chairman, Steve Simon, whilst announcing the suspension had remarked “With the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong,”
The WTA further asserted that its decision was made in “good conscience.” “I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete (in China) when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault,”
Seething at the suspension, the Chinese Tennis Association stated, “The WTA has unilaterally announced on 1 December 2021 its decision to suspend tournaments in China. We would like to express our indignation and firm opposition to this decision,”
Meanwhile, CCP’s mouthpiece Global Times and its Editor-in-Chief, Hu Xijin tweeted, “Steve Simon is boycotting in a high-profile manner some events that only have a slim chance of being held due to COVID-19. For one thing, it will not bring additional economic losses to the WTA, for another, it can garner attention from Western countries for himself and the WTA.”
Steve Simon is boycotting in a high profile manner some events that only have a slim chance of being held due to COVID-19. For one thing, it will not bring additional economic losses to the WTA, for another, it can garner attention from Western countries for himself and the WTA. https://t.co/6pRFntIuTh
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) December 2, 2021
What happened with Peng Shua?
Reported by TFI, after writing a 1,500-word article on her verified Weibo account last month suggesting she’d had a years-long affair with a former Chinese vice premier, the former world doubles No. 1 vanished from the public eye for weeks.
That account, which has since been removed from the Chinese internet, describes an incident in which she was allegedly forced into intercourse.
Peng resurfaced after the White House, the United Nations, and top tennis players expressed concern about her whereabouts. Chinese official media broadcast a succession of videos and photographs of her at home, out with friends, and at a tennis event to Twitter.
Why is China on the backfoot?
The unprecedented support that has poured in for Peng Shuai’s release is alarming for the CCP, especially because it could very well spark a chain reaction in China, where other victims of the CCP’s tyranny may soon find it harmless to speak up and tell their own stories.
A China that is running helter-skelter to defuse the Peng Shuai bomb, would find it perilous to deal with tons of such cases. And if one needs any more proof, then the scale of pushback that the CCP is receiving from the international community and the Tennis Community shows the extent of damage the Peng Shuai case can do to the legitimacy and sustenance of the Chinese Communist Party.